Timor-Leste has been experiencing a severe drought due to the El Niño phenomenon since the end of 2015. The latest rainy season, which takes place from November 2016 to May 2017, has been insufficient and erratic, maintaining drought conditions on most of the island. In the next three months, rains are expected to remain insufficient with the onset of the dry season in June. Food security continued deteriorating in the November–February lean season. With the start of the dry season in June, expectations of a poor harvest make it likely that people will continue to rely on livestock for food. Food intake reduction and a lack of diet diversity is likely to escalate malnutrition rates. National and international response is underway, but the government has not declared an emergency.
400,000 people – around one third of Timor-Leste’s population – are estimated to be severely affected by El Niño-induced drought. Over 100,000 people currently face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes, and are likely to move into Crisis levels of food insecurity as the impacts of a poor harvest accrue. Reports of failed staple crops, including maize and rice, due to delayed, erratic or insufficient rains are widespread. Livestock sickness and losses have been reported as water and food supplies run low. WASH conditions are worsening. Food and water shortages are hampering school feeding programmes and the incidence of diarrhoea is increasing.
While mountainous areas report better crop prospects after improved rainfall since January, southern, eastern and northern coastal areas, including in Lautem, Viqueque, Covalima and Oecusse, remain severely affected by drought. In these areas, the May dry season is expected to set in early, reducing the likelihood of late season improvements in crop growth and harvest yields. With 41% of Timor-Leste’s population below the poverty line and over 70% reliant on subsistence agriculture, high levels of vulnerability exacerbate the impact of the drought. Negative coping mechanisms, including eating less, changing to less safe water sources, and selling of assets are reported.
independence from Indonesia. In 2006, the country suffered largescale internal conflict, which led to the displacement of 150,000 people.
The latest parliamentary polls on 7th July, 2012 were considered an important milestone towards peaceful democratic governance. The UN announced that evidence of fair and peaceful polls would trigger the withdrawal of the UN peacekeeping force UNMIT and additional forces comprised mainly of Australian troops.
Despite its troubled political past, Timor-Leste’s economy continues to grow rapidly. Offshore gas reserves have increased state income, and Government spending is starting to contribute to poverty reduction and improved social outcomes.
However, food insecurity remains widespread throughout Timor-Leste with 20% of the population food insecure and 44% vulnerable to food insecurity. Though the majority of the population works in subsistence agriculture, agricultural productivity is low and Timor-Leste depends on food imports. High inflation rates, partly caused by the large oil-exports, make access to food and services increasingly difficult.
Malnutrition among children <5 is a widespread health concern with health services in Timor-Leste characterized by weak infrastructure and low human resource capacity. The country is prone to severe and recurrent drought, flooding and landslides. Tropical cyclones, earthquakes and tsunamis also represent risks.